The Real Aunt Molli by Frank Brennan (1)
My Aunt Molly is the kindest, sweetest person on earth. She may not be the cleverest woman in the world, but I love her a lot. However, a strange thing happened to Aunt Molly and now we don't know what to do.
It all started when her husband, Uncle Dalton, died. Well, I called him Uncle Dalton but she always called him 'Dally'. He was my mother's only brother. Aunt Molly really loved him, we all knew that.
Life had been quite difficult for Aunt Molly when she was a child. She was poor and her parents had died early on. She was left to look after herself. She had never learned to read properly and left school at an early age. But she was always cheerful and honest and never complained about the hard work she did to earn her living. She worked as a cleaner wherever there was work to do. She liked cleaning because she didn't have to make any difficult decisions. Aunt Molly didn't like making decisions. Perhaps she wasn't used to it. I don't know. But everybody liked her and she was never out of work.
She met Uncle Dalton when she was working as a cleaner at the bus station. He was a bus driver and it was when he had just finished for the day that he first saw her cleaning the station office. He fell in love with her as soon as he saw her. It was the same for Aunt Molly. As soon as their eyes met it was love for both of them. He soon grew to love her gentleness and she loved his kind heart and willingness to make decisions.
They got married two weeks later.
A year after that she gave birth to twin boys. They were my cousins and their names were Winston and Clement. I was born in the same year two months later. I was called Rufus. I still am. Anyway, Uncle Dalton got a better job at die bus station soon afterwards, and they bought a house near us.
Aunt Molly and Uncle Dalton had a happy marriage. Uncle Dalton earned the money and Aunt Molly cooked, cleaned and made the house a wonderful home for her dear Dally and the boys.
It would not be quite right to say that Aunt Molly actually ran the house. In fact, all the big decisions were left to Uncle Dalton. But she made sure that everything went smoothly. Everybody was happy. I was happy, too, because I liked to play with my cousins. I also looked forward to the delicious home-made biscuits Aunt Molly always gave me.
My cousins and I were five years old when Uncle Dalton was run over by a bus at the station. It was an accident. Uncle Dalton didn't know what hit him and he was killed immediately. Well, I suppose he guessed it was a bus, but I don't think he had much time to think it over, if you see what I mean. Anyway, he was dead.
In a way, once Uncle Dalton had died, I think a part of Aunt Molly died too. She was still a hard worker and remained a good mother to Winston and Clement. Indeed, the routine of running the house was something she no longer needed any help with. My parents and Uncle Dalton's parents - my grandparents - all helped Aunt Molly with the decision making. But the cheerfulness that we had come to expect from her had gone. It was as if all her cheerfulness had died with Uncle Dalton, her 'dear Dally'. She got some money from the bus company because Uncle Dalton had been killed at work. At least she didn't have to leave the twins in order to earn money.
The twins grew into fine boys. But by the time they were fourteen they wanted to see a bit more of the world outside their comfortable home. Both of them were bright and interested in the world outside. Especially Winston. They were beginning to get bored with life at home with all its safe routines.
That's where the trouble really began. Aunt Molly had not really changed since their father's death. She had not even learned to read properly. She never went out and had no outside interests. She spent what free time she had listening to the radio or watching the television, especially game shows.
The boys, though they loved their mother, wanted to decide more things for themselves. And like me, they wanted to go out more. Aunt Molly, however, just wanted to stay at home all the time. The boys never went out much with their mother - whenever they did go out, it was with me and my parents or with our grandparents. Aunt Molly always stayed at home.
It was Winston who thought of taking their mother to the theatre on her next birthday. She would be thirty-nine. The boys planned it all out carefully with the help of the rest of the family. We were all there, my parents and my grandparents.
'I don't think Mum would like to see a Shakespeare play or anything like that,' said Clement. 'But I'm sure that going to see something would do her good!'
'You're right,' said Gran. 'I think your mother should go to see something she would enjoy. It would make a nice change for her. Something like those shows she likes on the television.'
'Gran, you're brilliant!' said Winston. 'What about that show on the television with that hypnotist guy... the Maxwell Marvel Show? Mum loves that!'"
'What's that all about?' asked Grandpa. 'I don't think I've seen it.'
'You must be the only person in the country who hasn't,' said Clement. 'Maxwell Marvel is an expert hypnotist - he gives people suggestions and orders after he has made them go to sleep. When they wake up they do all kinds of funny things. Then, at an order from Maxwell Marvel, they go to sleep again. When they wake up again, they can't remember a thing about it.'
Grandpa laughed. 'I've had a few evenings like that myself.' Gran looked at him. 'Er... when I was much younger, of course,' he added quickly.
'Mum would really like to see that show - I just know it,' said Winston.
'Yes, but how do we get your Mum on a television show? Won't it be expensive? How will we get the money?' I asked.
'Relax,' said Winston. 'All we have to do is write to the television company and they'll send us the tickets free - that's where they get their live audiences from! All we have to do is make sure we let them know in time for the show.'
We all agreed that this was a great idea. So we did it. Aunt Molly, of course, was at first unwilling to go along with it. However, we had all made the decision for her and we wouldn't take no for an answer. In her heart, though, she did not really care what happened to her, not since her dear Dally had gone. But she went along to please her boys because she cared deeply for them, and did not want to disappoint them.
The television studio - the place where the show took place - was not at all what Aunt Molly imagined it would be like. She thought it would be like the inside of a theatre or a cinema. It wasn't. It was full of lighting and sound equipment. There were all kinds of people around whose job it was to make sure that everything worked properly. The audience itself was smaller than she expected. She could see the star of the show, Maxwell Marvel, nervously brushing his jacket in full view of the audience.
'Don't worry, Mum,' said Winston with confidence. 'It's always like this in a television studio. They're just getting ready for the show.'
Aunt Molly was sitting in the middle of the second row between the twins. I was there, too, along with Grandpa, who, from time to time, took little drinks from a small bottle of something he kept in his pocket. He was smiling.
Gran had stayed at home.
'Hey, the show's starting,' said Clement.
A man came out and told some jokes to make everybody feel more relaxed. He explained how the show was recorded for television and what was expected of the audience.
Then the lights went down and the opening music to the show started. Maxwell Marvel came into the centre of the studio, full of smiles. The audience clapped for a long time. Aunt Molly had seen this show many times on television, so she knew what to expect. Even so, we could tell that she was getting excited. We could see her smiling. It had been a long time since we had seen her smile like that. Then the show began.
Maxwell Marvel asked for some people from the audience to be hypnotised. Quite a few of the audience were willing but only about ten were chosen. They came on to the small stage and were immediately hypnotised by Maxwell.
They were told to do the strangest things - such as behaving like farm animals, or dancing at a disco, or acting like famous people. And they did everything they were told to do! Even the quiet looking ones were persuaded to do things that looked completely different from their usual behaviour.
Then, at a word or sign from Maxwell, they became themselves again and couldn't remember anything about what they had done. Some of them didn't even believe that they had been hypnotised at all and would only believe Maxwell after they were shown a video of what they had been doing.
Everybody loved it. Including Aunt Molly.
The final part of the show came when Maxwell asked for a last person to come forward.
'Here!' shouted Winston. He was pointing at his mother.
'Winston! What are you doing?' she said. 'I can't do that - I'd die of embarrassment!'
'Oh, go on, Mum. Do something different for once,' Clement whispered loudly. Grandpa and I were smiling. Aunt Molly smiled too.
She felt that she couldn't say no after all the trouble they had taken. What if she did look silly? That wouldn't matter. Nothing mattered now but her boys.
'All right - I'll do it!' she said.
Aunt Molly, for some reason, was an especially easy person to hypnotise. As she sat on a chair she 'went to sleep' to the sound of Maxwell's voice like a baby. We all wondered what hypnotic suggestions Maxwell would give her. Then Maxwell turned to Winston and said: 'What suggestions would you like to make, young man? I'll tell this lovely lady to do anything that won't get her into trouble with the police!'
The audience laughed.
The twins whispered to each other, then Winston spoke. 'Well... Mum's always needed a bit more confidence, so what could you do to make her more...'
'Decisive said Clement.
'That's it,' said Winston. 'More able to make decisions and be more confident - let her live life to the full!'
'Let's see what we can do,' said Maxwell. He first asked for her name and Grandpa told him. Then Maxwell turned to Aunt Molly who was still fast asleep. 'Now, Molly, you will answer only to my voice, do you understand?'
'I understand,' said Aunt Molly quietly, though she was still asleep.
'You will be a confident woman, full of strength. Whatever you want to do, you will succeed in doing. Nothing is too difficult for you. Is that clear to you, Molly?' said Maxwell.
Molly said that it was.
'When I tell you to open your eyes you will be that intelligent, confident woman; you will live life to the full. You will not remember that you have been hypnotised but you will be a new, confident woman who will live life to the full. You will continue until I - and only I - tell you to return to your normal life. Is that understood, Molly?' said Maxwell loudly and with quite a4ot confidence of his own.